PIERRE, S.D. – Childhood trauma that includes emotional, physical or sexual abuse can cause huge life impacts, but these can be minimized through awareness events such as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, through the end of April.

In South Dakota, agencies and law enforcement field about 16,000 calls concerning child abuse or neglect each year. Carrie Sanderson, director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, is helping lead the state’s 10-year strategic plan, which includes six goals and 48 objectives.

“Child sexual abuse and maltreatment knows no boundary,” she said. “It is not a socioeconomic problem. It is not a race issue. It happens in every community and in every type of household.”

Kids Count data shows that 46 percent of South Dakota children report having experienced at least one “adverse childhood experience” by the time they’re 17. Research shows such events have been linked to increased risks of drug use, depression, heart disease and other health effects.

Sanderson said a key to reducing child abuse includes enlisting not only law enforcement but also critical adults within the school system, church, mental-health agencies and the courts.

“Truly, this a national issue,” she said. “Child maltreatment is never a child’s problem; it’s always an adult’s problem. But what we’re seeing is that it’s something in our culture that is hard to discuss and hard to manage appropriately.”

One early objective in the strategic plan is to make South Dakota a “trauma-informed state,” she said, “meaning that every professional and every citizen in our state have had training to identify trauma in our children and are supporting the response system to make resilient families for South Dakota.”

The Watertown area and its communities are the first to establish a multidisciplinary team to help abuse victims and their families navigate the response system. The goal is to have at least five regional teams statewide.

More information on the plan is online at sdcpcm.com.

Roz Brown, Public News Service – SD